Hello loyal readers and welcome to my personal stroll down memory lane. As always, this is not scientific in any way, there are no correct answers here. This is just my own personal opinion from my own experiences as a nearly thirty year wrestling fan. This week I have chosen to reflect on one of the most exciting and dangerous matches in wrestling, the ladder match.
The surprising thing to me about choosing my favorite match was how easily it came to me. To be sure, there have been many great ladder matches throughout the years. Most people think of the Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon match from WrestleMania X when they think of top ladder matches. And it was the first ladder match that showed the possibilities of what was to come. But other than HBK performing his famous splash off the top of the ladder, I always felt the match lacked real drama. Of course the Money in the Bank matches have raised the limits of what one expects from a truly great ladder match. And allow me to give a special shout out to Shelton Benjamin who has done as much as anyone else to raise people’s expectations for all future ladder matches.
[adinserter block=”2″]The fact that he never won a Money in the Bank is borderline criminal in my opinion. And who can forget the spectacles that were the TLC matches between The Hardys, The Dudleys, and Edge & Christian from the early 2000’s. But for me, the first great ladder match I saw has always been my favorite. It’s the one that spawned all the imitators of the last ten years. And launched the four men involved into WWE stardom. The date is October 17, 1999. The place is the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The pay-per-view is No Mercy. And the match is Edge & Christian vs. The New Brood, the first WWE tag team ladder match.
The background for this match was that Edge & Christian had been members of The Brood with Gangrel. They split from Gangrel, who then recruited Matt & Jeff Hardy to join him as The New Brood. Along the way, Terri Runnels got involved and offered $100,000 and her managerial services to the team that won a best out of five tournament. The two teams split the first four matches, so it was decided that they would have a ladder match for the finale with the sack of money suspended above the ring. By the way, as Jerry Lawler pointed out on the broadcast, this was the Terri Invitational Tournament, or “T.I.T”. Oh that clever Vince Russo, you shocked us again.
Up until this point both teams had experienced only moderate success in the WWE. On this night, they took their performance to a whole new level. The match started out rather conventionally with both teams trading shots before going for the ladders. Even then, once the ladders are brought in, it’s pretty basic stuff. One guy goes up and gets pulled down, another goes up halfway and then gets pulled down. Once both teams realize that they can use the ladders as weapons is when the fun really starts. Jeff is rammed into the corner with a ladder and then Christian runs up it to deliver a drop kick. Not to be out done, as Edge climbs the ladder in the middle of the ring, Jeff lands a missile drop kick from the top rope to knock him off. While Edge is prone, the Hardys place him on a ladder and Jeff hits the Swanton Bomb on him. Or just a senton bomb as Jim Ross calls it. One interesting note is the lack of personalized names for all the moves, no Swanton, no Twist of Fate, and no UnPrettier. Just a senton, a neck breaker, and a reverse DDT.
Jeff also performs his leapfrog leg drop over the ladder onto Christian. I know these moves were done bigger later on, but this was the genesis of all that was to come. During the match not only do they use the ladders as weapons but they actually throw them at each other. I had never seen someone knocked off a ladder by an opponent hurling another ladder at their head. They used the ladders in all sorts of interesting ways, like as a battering ram to Matt Hardy’s groin for instance. OUCH! My favorite was when Jeff was folded up in the ladder and Edge & Christian repeatedly slammed it down on him, followed by Edged power slamming Christian onto the ladder itself.
[adinserter block=”1″]The signature moment for me was when the ladders were set up like a see saw and Jeff did a leg drop onto the end of it which caused the other end to fly up into the faces of both Matt Hardy and Christian. That brought the crowd to their feet for a standing ovation. The fact that Jeff Hardy would eventually scale the ladder and grab the sack of money was completely irrelevant. By that time, there were no heels or faces in the match anymore. Once it was over, the fans stood and cheered for the effort that both teams had put out. And although both teams would go onto bigger and longer remembered moments in the years to come, for me, this is the night I will always remember. This was where it all started, where the era of the great WWE ladder match was born.
So there you have it. My completely unscientific determination of the best ladder match ever. Do you have a different choice for the top spot? Do you think that ladder matches have become overused and routine now, or do you still find them exciting? Leave me a comment, I would love to know what you think. And keep on the lookout for the next edition of “The Best I Ever Saw”.
Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.
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